A driver told a Bellingham police officer he tried to run him over because “I thought you would think it was fun,” according to charges filed this week in Whatcom County Superior Court.
Darrin James Rankin, 40, who has a history of mental illness, started honking his red Acura’s horn and flashed the car’s lights at Officer James Walker in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 9, near the intersection of Holly and Champion streets.
Rankin pulled up behind Walker’s marked patrol car, with the red Acura’s horn still “blaring,” according to the charges. Walker thought the driver might need immediate help, so he got out of his cruiser to see what the problem was. However, Rankin “backed up his car about 30 feet, paused for a moment, and then accelerated as quickly as possible aiming the middle of his vehicle right toward the officer.”
Walker jumped out of the way. He got back in his cruiser and chased the Acura as the driver blew past a flashing red stoplight at Bay and West Holly, continued going the wrong way up Holly, and turned southwest — the wrong direction — on North Forest Street. The Acura then turned northwest onto East Chestnut — again, the wrong direction — and eventually meandered southward out of downtown at a speed around 30 or 35 mph, according to the charges.
The car barreled through one more red light at F Street and Roeder Avenue. Once Rankin reached a straightway on Squalicum Way, Walker bumped the front corner of his cruiser into the back panel of the Acura (called a PIT maneuver), spinning the car out of control. Rankin refused to come out and struggled with a police dog before surrendering.
Walker, 26, an officer for three years, asked Rankin if he recalled trying to run him over.
“Yes, and I’m sorry about that,” Rankin replied, according to the charges. “I thought you would think it was fun.”
Walker asked him to explain.
According to police, Rankin said: “I was trying to hit and kill you because that’s your job, right? To lay down your life to protect citizens?”
County prosecutors charged Rankin late Tuesday with assault in the first degree with a deadly weapon and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle.
Court papers show Rankin had several run-ins with local police in 2007. He was convicted of a misdemeanor, disorderly conduct, for lashing out at a nurse while he was involuntarily detained at the hospital due to mental problems. Since then, his local record has been nearly spotless.
Recent social media posts, however, suggest he had a fixation on Bellingham police and courts.
In one post last week he wrote: “Hey, I just heard on CNN that all of the cops in the world just suddenly vanished.”
In court papers filed this week, a mental health evaluator at the county jail described Rankin as “psychotic, disorganized, not able to communicate in a meaningful way. He meets criteria for psychiatric detention in his current state.”
Bail has been set at $250,000.
On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig signed an order delaying the case while Rankin is committed for up to 15 days at Western State Hospital in Pierce County. He’ll be transported there “as soon as possible in accordance with normal procedures,” to be examined by mental health professionals.